Hemingway's Chair is a Michael Palin novel, first published in the mid-1990s. I've recently read it - well, listened to it twice on audiobook, as a matter of fact - and I thought I'd share my opinions and see what anyone else's were.
First of all, I would definitely recommend this book - it has that Palinesque awkward charm, and his somehow compelling dullness that I've mused over in other posts! Don't go for this if you're a fast-paced thriller fan, but it is enjoyable: a fascinatingly peculiar main character, well-constructed dialogue, some gentle but still laugh-out-loud humour, and a really good ending.
Python fans will recognise the main character, Martin Sproule, as classic Palin. The first time you 'see' him in the book, he's wearing a bobble hat and an anorak, and riding a bicycle. Immediately the voice of Gulliver in The Cycling Tour calling 'Mr Pither! Mr Pither!' came into my head! That's where it stops being Pythonesque, though. It's the story of an obsessed Ernest Hemingway fan who's in his mid-thirties and works at a post office. He's fighting against its modernisation under the evil eye of a smarmy management type who just might have a more sinister side. Meanwhile, he's trying to emulate his hero, Hemingway, as well as raise the funds to buy an expensive piece of memorabilia: a fishing chair in which the man himself had sat. On this difficult path Martin meets an American academic named Ruth, who's the only person who knows as much about Hemingway as Martin does, but unfortunately she's not a fan.
The book is basically an argument for traditional English village life, reflecting similar worries about the dismantling of local communities and modernisation for its own sake as Palin observes in his own 'voice', in his '70s diaries. It's also an interesting study of fandom. It's nicely written, and occasionally exciting.
Oh yes, and if anyone likes audiobooks I'd definitely recommend this one: Palin reads the story very well, especially when Martin is drunk and conducting a one-sided conversation with his hero. He's delightfully inept at Ruth's American accent, but that's the only weakness, and for me it adds to the charm of the performance.
Over to you guys!